It just goes to show how little coverage there was of the recent death of Carolina native soul singer Nappy Brown–I’m just finding out about it tonight, and he passed away on Saturday in Charlotte. The State didn’t report it until Monday, when they had this to say.
The Charlotte Observer did a little better, seeing as he’s lived there for a long time I guess that’s expected, but even their notice is a bit short.
To be fair, these are both the kind of ‘breaking news’ updates that don’t usually get many column inches, but come on, the man was a not-heralded-enough pillar of the streetcorner where soul, blues, and R&B collided. His song, “The Night Time Is The Right Time,” was covered to great success by Ray Charles, but I still prefer his raw original version. “Don’t Be Angry,” another personal favorite, was a fun side from 1955 that incorporates an almost doo-wop sound and a seriously honking sax to great effect.
I’ve written about Brown several times over the years, but never got the opportunity to interview him, unfortunately. Here’s a clip from 2006, part of a feature in the Columbia Free Times covering that year’s Down Home Blues Festival in Camden (which, incidentally, is coming up again in a couple weeks):
Nappy Brown is the marquee act this year, and with good reason. Charlotte-born Brown was in the forefront of rock ‘n’ roll and R&B in the 1950s with the sides he cut for Savoy Records. “Night Time Is The Right Time,” is perhaps his best known song, mainly from the version recorded by Ray Charles. Brown’s original take on that tune is truer to his own rough-hewn soul man persona. Brown’s later work on Alligator Records is closer to standard blues fare, but with Brown’s gruff singing voice it is still unmistakably his own. He’ll be backed for his appearances by the King Bees, a North Carolina band who have issued several albums on the European label Tramp as well as serving as backup for Chicago Bob Nelson, Lazy Lester, and more. The King Bees will also perform sets of their own tunes during the festival.
Here’s a music-only clip of “Don’t Be Angry”, and a live clip with Bob Margolin from last year featuring some terrible camera work and jarring edits, but when Brown starts singing, “Baby Please Don’t Go” about a minute into it, it’s clear the man still had it, and then some.